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Manifest Destiny

MANIFEST DESTINY

MANIFEST DESTINY. In 1845 John L. O'Sullivan coined the term "manifest destiny" in reference to a growing conviction that the United States was preordained by God to expand throughout North America and exercise hegemony over its neighbors. In the United States Magazine and Democratic Review (July–August 1845, p. 5) he argued for "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." Around the time of O'Sullivan's writing, the United States saw an extraordinary territorial growth of 1.2 million square miles, an enlargement of more than 60 percent. Most of this growth occurred at the expense of the newly independent Mexico and the Native American nations. The expansion happened at such an accelerated pace that people like O'Sullivan thought that even larger expansions were inevitable, necessary, and desirable—hence the origin of the concept of manifest destiny.

Manifest destiny was obviously a defense of what is now called imperialism. It was a complex set of beliefs that incorporated a variety of ideas about race, religion, culture, and economic necessity. Some people, like the land speculators that settled in Florida, Texas, and Native American lands, wanted more land to get rich. Some fled poverty in Europe and eastern metropolitan centers. Some assumed that without spreading out to fresh lands the nation would languish. Some sought to perpetuate the institution of slavery by expanding it to new territories. Some believed that expansion into "uncivilized" regions would spread progress and democracy. It was convenient for all to think that they had the divine right to acquire and dominate because they had the proper economic system and the most developed culture and belonged to the most advanced race.

Origins of the Idea

This conviction of a destined glorious future for the United States had roots in colonial times. The influential Puritan John Winthrop wrote, "We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us." Many colonial leaders adopted time-honored expansion imagery from the Bible, portraying northern European Protestant colonists as the new Israelites and North America as the new Promised Land to justify conquering new lands and dominating other cultures.

When colonists attempted emancipation from Britain, the rebellion heightened the importance of the idea that the North American colonists were special individuals selected by God to rule over an extended territory. Insurgent leaders purposely sought Promised Land imageries for the new nation's symbols. The British forces were seen as the Egyptian soldiers, the Atlantic Ocean was the new Red Sea, and George Washington became the "American Moses."

With independence came new ideas that encouraged the desire to extend the country beyond the original perimeter of the thirteen colonies. Expansionist patriots reasoned that expansion was linked to the survival of republicanism. Not only did the new nation have the divine assignment of spreading the true religion of Protestantism by example and enlargement, but it also had the responsibility of spreading its political tenets in the same manner. An upsurge in births and immigration was directly tied to the promises of expansion, which included cheap land and economic opportunities west of the Appalachian Mountains. The country's population grew from about 5 million in 1800 to more than 23 million by midcentury. The frontier offered relief in the form of land, resources, and commercial opportunities to those affected by the economic downturns of 1818 and 1829. Seizing Native American and Spanish lands would allow the national economy to expand, acquire more raw materials for fledgling industries, and secure new commercial outposts, particularly those of the Far East. Expansion would ensure new markets for an increasing U.S. industrial output. The expansionists saw no contradiction between advancing their capital and improving the world by stimulating economic activity. Popular bourgeois values of self-sufficiency and self-rule received unexpected support from the general public as it tried its luck in the new lands. These expansions, however, also created a permanent economic and cultural underclass composed of the Native Americans and Hispanics who had been living in those territories.

Manifest Destiny in Practice

The Monroe Doctrine exemplified the mood and ideas behind manifest destiny. President James Monroe said that the Americas were "not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers," paving the way for an increasing United States hegemony over its neighbors by attempting to cut off European influence in the Western Hemisphere. The gradual inroads of English-speaking settlers from the United States into the Mexican province of Texas, starting in 1823, is one of the clearest examples of manifest destiny's coming of age. Mexico opened the land for colonization, but the response was so overwhelming that Mexican authorities lost control of the province. Motivated by ideas of manifest destiny, the new English-speaking settlers rebelled in 1835 in an attempt to form an independent state. A series of reactions led to the annexation of Texas in 1845 and war between Mexico and the United States in 1846. The war ended on 2 February 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceding to United States the present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. The goal of reaching the Pacific coast was accomplished.

The Civil War of 1861–1865 did not cool the expansionist impulses completely. The military strength built during the war was now used against Native Americans to gain their land in the Northwest. Expansionists, now freely using the term manifest destiny to justify their wishes, also turned their attention to the Caribbean, Central America, and the Pacific. Times had changed since the antebellum period, and now the ideologies behind manifest destiny contained elements of Darwinism and beliefs in social and climatic determinism. North Americans felt they had "the white's man burden" in the Americas and it was their responsibility to lead the inferior races in the south to better lives. These new expressions of the principles behind O'Sullivan's manifest destiny inspired the United States' intervention in the Cuban War for Independence in 1895 and in Panama in 1903. Military and technical successes in these enterprises led to a transoceanic North American empire. Altered ideas of manifest destiny, combined with other forces of the time, continued to determine international relations through the twentieth century.

Notwithstanding the popularity of the principles advanced by the different expressions of manifest destiny, not everyone accepted the expansionism they entailed. The Whig Party opposed expansion, believing that the republican experiment in the United States would fail if


the nation grew too large. Politicians from the Northeast felt they would lose political power in Congress if the United States admitted more states into the union. Attempts to expand further into Mexico were defeated by racism toward Mexicans. The abolitionists also opposed expansion, particularly if it would bring slave territories into the union. Pacifists became gravely concerned with the casualties of expansion and opposed its violence. Yet the overall opposition to the ideas of manifest destiny was modest. Most people gladly embraced the concept that they belonged to a superior culture and race, and that Providence or genetics had preordained the people of the United States for greatness. Even black leaders like Frederick Douglass accepted the principles of manifest destiny when he supported the annexation of Santo Domingo.

Native Americans and Hispanics, however, were not passive victims of the expansion. The stories of Native American and Mexican resistance to Anglo-Saxon occupation are well known. Yet some local elites seeking opportunities for profit adapted their interests to the new circumstances, even when other members of their own ethnic groups opposed their moves.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cherry, Conrad. God's New Israel: Religious Interpretations ofAmerican Destiny. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1971.

Johannsen, Robert Walter, Sam W. Haynes, and Christopher Morris, eds. Manifest Destiny and Empire: American Antebellum Expansionism. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997.

Joseph, Gilbert M., Catherine C. LeGrand, and Ricardo D. Salvatore, eds. Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.–Latin American Relations. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998.

Koning, Hans. The Conquest of America: How the Indian NationsLost Their Continent. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1993.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence, Jr., and Gene A. Smith. Filibusters andExpansionists: Jeffersonian Manifest Destiny, 1800–1821. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.

Weinberg, Albert Katz. Manifest Destiny: A Study of NationalistExpansionism in American History. New York: AMS Press, 1976.

Dennis R.Hidalgo

See alsoWestward Migration ; "City on a Hill."

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Manifest Destiny

MANIFEST DESTINY


The doctrine of Manifest Destiny emerged in the United States in the early 1800s; by the 1840s it had taken firm hold. Manifest Destiny was a rallying cry for expansionism and it prompted rapid U.S. acquisition of territory during the 1800s. Adherents to the doctrine believed that the United States had a God-given duty and right to expand its territory and influence throughout North America.

Territorial acquisitions under the doctrine began in 1803, with the purchase of Louisiana Territory from France. In 1819 Florida and the southern strip of Alabama and Mississippi (collectively called the Old Southwest) were acquired from Spain in the Adams-Onis Treaty. In 1845 Texas was annexed after white settlers fought for and declared freedom from Mexico, then formed the Republic of Texas and petitioned the Union for statehood. In 1846 the western border between Canada and the United States was agreed to lie at 49 degrees north latitude, the northern boundary of what is today Washington state. In 1848, by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. secured New Mexico and California after winning the Mexican War (18461848). In 1853 southern Arizona was acquired from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase. With the 1853 agreement over Arizona the United States had completed the acquisition of the territory that would eventually become the contiguous United States of America.


The fervor of Manifest Destiny was perhaps best illustrated by the expansion into Oregon Country, which was settled by the United States and Canada under the Convention of 1818. The territory began at 42 degrees north latitude (the southern boundary of present-day Oregon) and extended north to 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude (the recognized southern boundary of Russian America, or what is today Alaska). In the presidential election of 1844 candidate James K. Polk (18451849) used the slogan "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" to gain the vote of the expansionists: They insisted U.S. rights to Oregon Country extended north to latitude 54 degrees 40 minutes. Polk promised he would acquire the territoryeven if it meant a fight with Britain. After he was elected, Polk settled the dispute with Britain and the boundary was set at 49 degrees north, securing the territory that is today Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.

The expansionist doctrine was again invoked as justification for the Spanish-American War (1898), which was fought over the issue of freeing Cuba from Spain. Spain lost the war, and its empire dissolved. Cuba achieved independence (though it was occupied by U.S. troops for three years). By the close of the nineteenth century Manifest Destiny had resulted in U.S. acquisition of the outlying territories of Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Midway Islands, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, Wake Island, American Samoa, the Panama Canal Zone, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

See also: Alaska Purchase, Expansionists, Gadsden Purchase, Louisiana Purchase, Oregon Country Cessation, Texas Annexation, Westward Expansion

1849">

fifty-four forty or fight!

expansionist slogan during president james k. polk's administration, 18451849

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manifest destiny

manifest destiny, belief held by many Americans in the 1840s that the United States was destined to expand across the continent, by force, as used against Native Americans, if necessary. The controversy over slavery further fueled expansionism, as the North and South each wanted the nation to admit new states that supported its section's economic, political, and slave policies. By the end of the 19th cent., this belief was used to support expansion in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

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Manifest Destiny

Man·i·fest Des·ti·ny • n. the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the U.S. throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.

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manifest destiny

manifest destiny the 19th century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the United States throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.

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